Interpreting Evidence Correctly on the ACT and SAT

In all three types of ACT Science passages, you will need to be able to understand how evidence is presented and be asked to answer questions based on the evidence. These are a bit like Reading questions.

To interpret evidence correctly, you need to focus on the results. Draw logical conclusions based on the presented data, and actively read the information in the accompanying passage. It’s important to know the difference between direct and inverse variation.

To answer Interpreting Evidence questions correctly, ask yourself these 3 questions: – What is the evidence presented? – Whose position is supported by the evidence? – What does the evidence suggest?

Interpreting evidence for Data Representation and Research Summaries ends up requiring more Data Analysis skills, since data is a large component of those passages. For Conflicting Viewpoints, interpreting evidence is a matter of keeping the two theories (two scientists) straight. Watch this video for a strategy on how to do this!

This video describes how to answer “Inference” questions on the SAT and ACT Reading Test. You may wonder what this has to do with ACT Science, but sometimes interpreting evidence is a LOT less scientific than it sounds, and a LOT more like reading comprehension. Remember that you can only make an inference BASED on something directly stated. Incorrect answer choices are frequently “out of scope.”

 

What to Expect on the ACT Science Test

The ACT Science section can cause a lot of unnecessary worry among test-takers. However you can still receive a strong score even if you aren’t a budding Albert Einstein. Careful reading and note-taking (the same skills you use for Reading Comp!) are enough to answer most questions. Remember – the answer has to be based on the information in the paragraphs and/or tables. You just have to know where to look!

The ACT Science Test will always be the fourth test you’ll take. It will have 7 passages and you’ll have 35 minutes to complete them. That’s about 5 minutes per passage so moving confidently through this test is essential! It takes practice to gain confidence in interpreting data and understanding the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. Luckily, you already have all of the skills necessary to do this from your high school Science classes.

Experiments of some type are described in most of the passages. A group of scientists will be studying some type of phenomenon. They will usually conduct two experiments to see how certain factors affect the phenomenon. Often a graph, table or diagram will accompany the description of the experiments to show the results. Here are some two important steps to help you analyze the experiments:

1. Identify the Purpose & Method

Make sure to underline the Purpose & Method for each Experiment as you read (don’t wait until you finish reading everything or you’ll be too confused and overwhelmed). The Purpose tells you why the scientists are conducting the experiment. What are they trying to find out? Look for verbs like “to study…” or “to examine…” in the first explanatory paragraph. That is often where the description of the Purpose can be found. The Method for each experiment will be described in the following paragraphs. Make sure to make note what is similar and what is different between the two Experiments. Sometimes the scientists will change one factor or more factors between the experiments to see if the results change.

2. Understand the Factors

Factors, also known as variables, are important elements of the experiments. These are often things like temperature, pH, pressure, time, distance, etc. Depending on a way the variable is being used in each experiment, it can be called either dependent or independent. Independent variables are those factors that are controlled by the scientists. Did the scientists increase the heat in the experiment? Did they add or remove pressure? If the scientists were the ones controlling the variable, it is independent. Dependent variables are what the scientists observed changing. Let’s say that when the scientists increased the heat in our hypothetical experiment, the time also increased.

ACT Science: How to Compare Two Experiments

One type of ACT Science passage, Research Summaries, will present descriptions of one or more related experiments and will require you to answer questions about one or both experiments. To compare them accurately, answer the following questions as you read. Make sure to underline, circle, or otherwise mark up the passages as you read!

1. How is each experiment set up? Make sure you understand the method for each experiment. What tools/processes/chemicals are used?

2. What does the data show? Pay close attention to the results of each experiment. Usually this is presented in tables or charts. How do the different variables relate to one another? Draw arrows on the tables to show the trends. Keep the following definitions in mind:

Independent variables: These are factors that are controlled by the scientists. Did the scientists increase the heat in the experiment? Did they add or remove pressure? If the scientists have control over the variable, it is independent.

Dependent variables: These are factors that the scientists observe changing. This is what the look for and how they record data — but they don’t control it.

Direct variation: This is when two things change in the same way over time. If Column A increases and Column B increases at the same time, we can say that the two vary directly.

Indirect variation: If when Column A increases, Column B decreases, there is an indirect (also called inverse) variation between the two elements.

3. How do the experiments differ? There will be certain elements common to both experiments, and one or more elements will change from Experiment 1 to Experiment 2. Circle the new information. Then focus on the results – do the variables interact similarly or differently in the 2nd experiment? Is the range of data greater or smaller?

ACT Science Test – where to start?

On Test Day, the ACT Science Test will always be the fourth test you’ll take. It will have 7 passages and you’ll have 35 minutes to complete them. Even if your knowledge of Science is limited, you can still get a great score!

Pacing is by far the most important aspect of the ACT Science Test. Don’t wait until two weeks before your test to get started. You will only have about 5 minutes per passage, so you may want to start by only doing 5 passages, allotting 7 min per passage. Once you can confidently do 5 passages with reasonable accuracy, work your way up to 6 and then 7.

Check out more information about the ACT Science Test and try some practice questions on your own on this Learnboard!

Learnist: 10 Tips to Rock the ACT Test this December 14th!

December 14th is the final ACT Test date of 2013. Planning to take the exam? Here’s how to focus your studies and rock the test!

Step 1 – Commit to a Study Schedule! To make sure you get the ACT test date and testing center you want, register early, at least 2-3 months before the exam. That way you can create a study schedule, working backwards from the test date. Be realistic with yourself? How much time can you commit each week to ACT practice questions? Work in 2-3 hour blocks maximum. It’s better to study 20-30 minutes a day than 4 hours once a week.

This site offers free 1, 2, or 3 month schedules! While the 3-month one is ideal, if you’re planning to take the December exam, you’ll want to modify the 1-2 month plans to fit your needs.

Step 2 – Focus on your weaknesses ASAP! Are you a slow reader? Is your ACT Math knowledge so-so? Grammar got you down? Know going in to your ACT test prep what areas need more work and plan to address them first. You’ll need more time for the weaknesses. Don’t put off studying for a section just because you dread it!

Luckily, the ACT SparkNotes website gives a great breakdown of what you’ll see on Test Day, so you can start to get a sense of what will need the most work.

Check out steps 3-10 on this Learnist board: 10 Tips to Rock the ACT Test!